Cambodia, Food, Music, Personal, Travel

Otres. December 1, 2012.

I’m like the Grimm of vacations.

As the bad luck charm of leisure trips, I have had planned months in advance weeks of Mexican resorts which morph their way into a weekend at Newport Beach because of flight complications (Mills, it was still amazing. I’ll never forget our terrible adventures on Balboa), been stuck at at the Scottsdale Arizona (worst ever, they only have a Wendy’s) airport for almost three days with no luggage or patience, lost $100 within 2 minutes in Vegas (I blame you, Eric Wicken) and been weaseled out of tickets to Two Door Cinema Club in New York, all because of bad timing. On top of it all, I generally just don’t like taking “vacations”. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy time off work, because dear Lord let’s not kid anyone I love time not in the office (or bar or shop or what have you) it’s just that I’d rather be lounging in my own bed and spending my money on shoes and McDonalds instead of airline tickets. I believe they call those “staycations”. Lame, I know.

“What a whiny little turd,” I can only imagine you thinking to yourself. I must clarify that I am immensely grateful for all of these opportunities of forced relaxation, extremely grateful. Some of my favorite memories are watching the sun rise from a bedroom in Brooklyn after being out all night, dancing with my best friend to the worst music possible on repeat at Valley Ho while eating Sour Cream and Onion Pringles like they’re going out, Twinkies style. Stumbling in the dark, delirious with laughter to a foggy creek with my closest comrades in Eastern Washington after an intense weekend at the Rolling Huts or jumping onto a pristine white hotel bed and rolling around in it just to mess things up- these are the moments that remind me that I simply must get out and allow myself trips beyond the comfort of my own den. That, and Nico literally shaking me by the shoulders before his leaving for Bangkok and saying, “GET OUT OF PHNOM PENH. Go somewhere.” A true friend, indeed.

I was reminded of my self imposed doom-like presence on vacation as Miss Belford and I left on the 7:30am Sorya bus to Sihanoukville this past Tuesday during the start of Water Festival. An hour after leaving Phnom Penh, I was awakened by a smoke filled bus and a group of thirty or so uninformed travellers making their way off the vehicle a bit confused, but oddly not the least bit concerned. It was an interesting start to the trip, to say the least. No explanation was made from the driver, neither to the entire bus of Khmer or Chloe (the only Barang looking person there) or me about what was going on or what was being done to fix the problem. I’ll admit that irritation set in about an hour after standing in the shade of the bus, dodging bites from red ants, not having any clue as to what on Earth was going down and if hopping into the next ice cream truck would be a more realistic way of getting to our destination point. I could only assume another bus had been called to retrieve us from our roadside abandonment, but hark! A half clothed mechanic, covered caveman like in grease, motoing in our direction. A series of events similar to this occurred over the next three hours, making Chloe and I feel like we were on a bad prank television show with our friends all sitting in the ramshackle house across the murky eddy and field of sloe-eyed cows watching and waiting for our breaking points: Who is going to break down into tears first? Will she slash the tires?! Neither happened, thank goodness, and eventually some diabolic looking oil was filtered into the mighty maw of the back of our bus and we were free to get back on the road. The promise of air conditioning left me so relieved I only felt a slight pang of concern regarding the smell of the rest of the drive, as I had just seen everyone else eat a steady stream of street clams and roasted eggs of a mysterious grey shade.

Finally arriving in Sihanoukville nine hours later, we grabbed a tuk tuk to Otres Beach, a quick 15 minutes, where we had booked rooms at Moonrise Rock instead of staying in the city, thanks to the sage advice of Dan Reigler. A friend from Phnom Penh, Laura, had recently moved to Otres to work and live at Moonrise and had booked our rooms for us; basic hostel accommodations, but comfortable enough for $6 a night with a mosquito net, fan, and electricity (generator provided, since someone had stolen the entire power box for the street earlier that day). We made our way down to Moorea, a separate guest house sitting right on the cusp of the tide, a lovely retreat with abundant recliners, hammocks, and papasan chairs to lounge in. After a hearty bacon cheeseburger and a glass of Pastis, I had assumed it was at least nine o’clock and that we wouldn’t be entirely pathetic if we called it a night but after taking a glance at my watch, realizing seven thirty was the actual time and that yes, we were entirely pathetic for wanting to call it a night. Instead we wandered down the silky sand, found the perfect place to relax and spent the next hour or so fully enjoying every moment of doing absolutely nothing.

I slept like a 10 month old on Valium that night, Chloe having a bit more difficulty getting rest as “Baby Got Back” blared under her room at 4 in the morning, but still she rose with the sun and was ready for breakfast by eight thirty. The entire day was spending shoveling omelettes and noodles covered with Kampot pepper into our faces, taking breaks to get oil massages and make friends with Lita, an eleven year old Vietnamese-Khmer girl that took my heart and ran with it. Me toasting in the sun feeling euphoric as Lana Del Rey and Takers serenaded me with the surf harmonizing and my accomplice glowing beneath the red umbrellas, drinking banana shake after banana shake. The sea, warm as bathwater, allowed me to unveil my inner mermaid and the feeling of the salt in my hair still remains. The dazzling sun setting allowed the moon to take center stage, with a ring so bright around it’s orb it was hard to believe what we were seeing. We drank and dined at Mushroom Point, a fantastic little guest house, where we had the pleasure of meeting a few fellow travellers and the most wonderful server, Sna, who both entertained and taught. We all had a laugh at the end of the night as we received our bill with our title being “couple barang at bar, 2 girls”. Chloe’s acrobatic training came into use as we found the slackline tied up outside of the restaurant area and as she deftly moved across with gymnastic ability, I could only look from afar in awe as I sat like Humpty Dumpty at the bar. When she asked if I wanted to have a go I can only imagine the cartoonish way I looked behind me to see who else she could possibly be speaking to, considering the ridiculous amount of bruises I’ve been covered in since my time in Phnom Penh. The much talked about Full Moon party at Ritchie’s was in full swing at one in the morning, but after several tumblers of vodka and something tart, the taste of Zig Zags in my mouth, and flotsam and jetsam covering my toes, a fan on my face and a pillow under my head seemed much more appealing and I made my way back to sleep.

The next morning we were greeted with more omelettes at Mushroom Point, another blissful romp in the ocean, and a few more naps for me between waking and our two o’clock departure. The ride back home was uninterrupted, uneventful, and never have I been so grateful to have remembered my headphones as I caught glimpses of the Khmer soap operas being played loudly on the bus’s TV.

I must say that there were moments in Sihanoukville that make me think think the curse of being a bad vacationer may just be wearing off. I will accept what is to come, both the easy and difficult as they arrive, and take Mr. Giacomo Butte’s advice and “have a beer, enjoy the journey and not the destination.”

At that I say, “Otres, it’s been real. Thanks for the bountiful naps, smokes and jokes. This is not goodbye.”

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